Johnny Isakson’s Position Statement on Health Care

As a member of the two Senate committees that oversee Americans’ health care, and as a former small business owner, I recognize the frustrations many Americans have with the current cost and quality of health care. For many Georgians, the so-called Affordable Care Act (or “Obamacare”) has not been the solution to provide access to more affordable health care to individuals who lack access to health insurance through an employer. In the 10 years since Obamacare was passed, health insurance premiums and deductibles have become more expensive, not less.

When it comes to real solutions, we can all agree that insurance companies should not be allowed to reject coverage to someone who has a pre-existing medical condition or to cancel coverage to someone after they develop a condition. I also support the provision in Obamacare that allows young adults to stay covered through their parents’ health insurance plan until age 26.

However, many of Obamacare’s other regulatory requirements have reduced choice and competition in the health insurance market. I believe we need to restore free-market principles to increase choice for families, businesses and force health insurance companies to compete with each other to offer more affordable alternatives. One way to do this is to allow health insurance sales across state lines to increase transferability and competition. I also support the Trump administration’s efforts to expand choices and access to care.

In 2017, President Trump signed an executive order that led to efforts from the Department of Health and Human Services to expand access to short-term, limited-duration insurance plans, which can be an affordable alternative to traditional insurance, especially for people who are in between jobs. I have also applauded the administration for taking steps to allow small businesses to pool together to form association health plans or offer health reimbursement arrangements to provide lower-cost coverage to employees. These kinds of innovative approaches are the keys to expanding access to health insurance.

In December 2009, I voted against President Obama’s health care proposal in the Senate, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” because I believed it was a terribly flawed, unconstitutional law that puts the government rather than doctors and patients in charge of Americans’ health care. 

Despite Senate votes that I have supported to repeal and replace the law, none of those proposals has received the 51 votes needed to pass. I am disappointed that the Senate has not yet been able to agree on a plan to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a more market-driven plan that reduces health care costs and improves quality through choice and competition, while maintaining protections for patients with pre-existing conditions.

Given the immediate crisis facing the individual health insurance market, I believe we have a responsibility to do as much as we can in the short term to stabilize and strengthen the individual health insurance market and provide more choices so that Americans will be able to buy insurance at affordable prices.

Preserving Medicare and Social Security
Social Security benefits should be preserved and protected as-is for retirees and people nearing retirement, and I want to ensure that Social Security stays in place for future retirees. 

I also agree we must preserve Medicare, and I have worked on ways to preserve the program for future generations. I have had bipartisan legislation passed to help in that effort, and I will continue working to improve Medicare benefits for seniors with two or more chronic conditions. The Creating High-quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic (CHRONIC) Care Act of 2017, which I introduced as S.870, was included in the Bipartisan Budget Agreement Act and signed into law on Feb. 9, 2018. By coordinating care and focusing on prevention and keeping people out of the hospital, this reform will provide better care at a lower cost to the Medicare program.

Medical and Prescription Drug Pricing
I believe Americans have the right to know and understand what their medical care costs, including for prescription drugs. 

I supported bipartisan legislation in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee that aims to bring lower-cost generic drugs to market more quickly, to protect Americans from “surprise” medical billing, and to increase transparency so patients will know exactly what they are paying for when it comes to medical appointments, testing and other procedures.

I am encouraged by the bipartisan efforts underway across numerous Senate committees to address concerns about high drug prices. I hope that the Senate can move forward with bipartisan legislation that would encourage more generic drug competition, crack down on anti-competitive practices by drug manufacturers, protect seniors from unreasonably high out-of-pocket costs, and ensure that discounts negotiated by health plans and pharmacy benefit managers result in actual savings to consumers at the pharmacy counter.

Opioid Crisis
President Trump declared the opioid crisis a national health emergency in 2017. This devastating crisis has touched my own family just as it has affected so many other Georgia families, veterans and businesses. 

I supported the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018, which combined more than 70 proposals from five Senate committees, including two that I sit on: the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions and the Senate Committee on Finance. In addition to supporting and cosponsoring many of the proposals, I also authored three provisions included in the final measure that is an important step in fighting this epidemic.

The Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018 takes a multi-pronged approach to attack the opioid crisis through prevention, treatment and recovery, support for caregivers and families, safety, medical research, and improved border security measures, in addition to tackling the crisis through the Medicare and Medicaid programs. I’m proud that this comprehensive measure to fight the opioid crisis in Georgia and across the country was signed into law in October 2018. We must all work together to tackle this crisis.


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